Winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, Barry writes stories that are character-driven, archetypical yet magnetic,...



In his latest, Irish author Barry (City of Bohane, 2011, etc.) offers 10 pieces of literary fiction.

A postmodern lens reflects youthful ineptness in "Across the Rooftops." In "Wifey Redux," perhaps the collection’s best story, Saoirse, "blonde and wispily slight with a delicate, bone-china complexion," marries, births Ellie and turns to Pinot Grigio, while her dutiful husband becomes consumed by their daughter's beauty and her sex-obsessed suitors. A blocked poet turned innkeeper herds horny Belarus staff and droning, alcoholic locals in "Fjord of Killary" until, epiphany-flooded, "I felt a new, quiet ecstasy take hold. The gloom of youth had at last lifted." In "A Cruelty," a boy/man/child, autistic perhaps, time-obsessed, fixated on lunch-pack Chocolate Goldgrains, is accosted by a bully, perhaps a rapist, certainly "hyena," his safely circumscribed world forever fractured. Later, a sad group of ale fanciers makes a humorous and melancholy "Beer Trip to Llandudno." Irish lyricism shines throughout the collection. "Ernestine and Kit" opens so—"the world was fat on the blood of summer"—but relates a tale as black as a witch’s heart. A kitchen steward, "black mass of backcombed hair and a graveyard pallor," fumbles into a double-dealing bombing plot in "The Mainland Campaign." A broken lover laments in "Wistful England," and Jameson whiskey–loving "Doctor Sot" finds drunken perceptions reflected by psychotic Mag, a traveler. An on-the-run drug dealer confronts the devil, twisted overseer of two sisters, eight wild children and chained feral dogs in "The Girls and the Dogs." A rattletrap "White Hitachi" van is home to Patrick, incompetent thief, intent upon saving his brother from "Castlerea prison, or the secure ward at the madhouse (many a Mullaney had bothered the same walls)." The title story is penultimate, a young artist, a cutter, from a fractured family seeks west Ireland solace. "Berlin Arkonaplatz—My Lesbian Summer" concludes the collection, Irish writer Patrick entrapped and enlightened by bohemian Silvija, "beautiful, foul-mouthed and inviolate."

Winner of the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, Barry writes stories that are character-driven, archetypical yet magnetic, pushing toward realism’s edge where genre becomes irrelevant.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55597-651-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.


The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

Did you like this book?



A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

Did you like this book?